Fearlessly predicting the Brownlow top ten
Gary Ablett and Dayne Beams (AFL Media)
- Geelong Cats news
- Hawthorn Hawks news
- Sydney Swans news
- Collingwood Magpies news
- Essendon Bombers news
- Richmond Tigers news
- Adelaide Crows news
- AFL news
- AFL Premiership news
- Adelaide Crows news
- Gold Coast Suns news
With the 2012 Brownlow Medal count just days away, it’s time to have a look at which players are in contention for the game’s most prestigious individual honour.
Emphasis has been placed on players who’ve demonstrated consistency and an ability to register clear best-on-ground performances, but previous voting results and competition from teammates also come into it.
10. Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
If you’re looking for a leader after ten rounds, Pendles could be your guy. Although injury intervened and he wasn’t the same after his return, his strong start will put him in good stead and top ten is very achievable.
9. Joel Selwood (Geelong)
Selwood won’t be able to go all the way, but after playing an extra three games this season and with his support cast not what it used to be, he should improve on his 17 votes from last year. That almost certainly means a top ten finish.
8. Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn)
Mitchell, after 30 votes last year, is bound to be in the thick of it again. The concern is that his numbers have dropped (he averages three less disposals a game), although he may benefit from playing one more game than last year. Ultimately, a lack of best-on-ground performances will kill his chances of winning.
7. Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
It was a great home and away campaign for the Swans and in particular Kennedy, but all that team success means plenty of votes will be going to Kieren Jack, Jarrad McVeigh, Ryan O’Keefe, Dan Hannebery and Lewis Jetta. Throw in the fact Kennedy was only awarded three votes last season and you also get a feel for how much of a turnaround would be needed for him to win it. A top ten finish would nonetheless be a fitting reward for Kennedy’s season.
6. Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide)
Dangerfield will have to fight it out with Scott Thompson (who only just missed out on making this list and will probably end up proving me wrong) for votes. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see him out-poll his more experienced teammate, and I’m expecting at least four best-on-ground games, I don’t see enough guaranteed vote-winning games for him to actually win the award.
It’s for that reason he’s out of the top five. He will definitely improve on his seven votes from last year, that much is certain.
5. Trent Cotchin (Richmond)
Cotchin is second-favourite with the bookies and while it’s difficult to share such a lofty level of optimism, the Tiger is an outside chance. The problem is that there will be quite a few players taking votes off Cotchin throughout the season.
Brett Deledio, Shane Tuck, Shaun Grigg and Ivan Maric have had their share of good games. In a side that didn’t make the finals, that’s a fair crowd.
A couple of best-on-ground performances in the last month of the season gives reason for hope, however, not to mention the fact Cotchin’s numbers from last season (when he polled 15 votes) have definitely improved.
4. Dayne Beams (Collingwood)
At the start of the year few would’ve seen this nomination coming, but Beams is a sneaky chance to upstage his better-known teammates. Although he’s coming off only one Brownlow vote in the 2011 count, he played seven extra games in what was truly a breakout season in 2012.
He’s averaging an extra 8.2 disposals a game and 22 more Supercoach points which, for those unfamiliar with the stat, is a lot. What will really work in his favour is that he’s racked up roughly five best-on performances across the season. What works against him is a slow start: it’s unlikely we’ll see him poll in the first five weeks.
3. Dane Swan (Collingwood)
You might be sick of the Magpie love thus far, but you simply can’t ignore the fact Swan polled a massive 34 votes last season, a solid base to work from if ever there were one.
The naysayers will point to the obvious facts about Collingwood’s season. They lost four more games, Beams emerged, Steele Sidebottom also put his hand up, Swan himself played three less games and perhaps didn’t seem as “dominant” as in the past.
But, in truth, Swan’s averages actually lifted this year. Those three less games will hurt, and there will often be a dog-fight between Swan, Beams and Pendlebury over votes, but it’s not all one-way traffic: the tallies of Dale Thomas and Travis Cloke will surely drop and Luke Ball, Leon Davis and Andrew Krakouer won’t be around pinching votes like last season.
Pendlebury missed a month mid-season and his form dropped off afterwards. It may also take time for Beams to gain recognition from the umpires, considering he registered just one vote last season.
Ignoring cross-year comparisons, there are about five games where Swan’s a good chance for best-on-ground honours. Beyond that, his constant 30+ possession games will keep him in contention for plenty of ones and twos.
2. Jobe Watson (Essendon)
This year there’s a tendency to back players from outside of the top eight, which certainly contradicts the norm. With Watson, you can understand why doing so would be tempting.
Through the Bombers’ high and low points this season, Watson was able to deliver. In 2012 he averaged an extra 2.8 touches a game and 15 more Supercoach points. The tempting part is that last year, he polled 15 votes – despite playing six less games than this year.
Another factor is the much talked-about injury situation at Windy Hill, which means that you’d expect Watson won’t have as much competition for votes within his own club, although Brent Stanton might overshadow him at the beginning of the season.
Is Essendon’s win-loss record going to be a factor? Obviously, history says it helps if you’ve got wins on the board. Perhaps, though, this year’s a bit different, given there weren’t that many wins separating the teams that made it to the top eight.
1. Gary Ablett (Gold Coast)
There’s one man who can turn the whole finalist/non-finalist debate on its head for years to come. With anyone else, you’d argue that winning a Brownlow in a team that won three games would be impossible. But as crazy as it sounds, Gazza just might do it.
Think about it this way. Last year, Ablett polled 23 votes in a side that also won three games. However, this year he’s averaging an extra 3.6 disposals per game and an extra 11.3 Supercoach points, which is both noticeable and valid (“Champion Data Ranking Points” have been effectively used to predict Brownlow winners in the past).
In addition to this, the list of teammates that can take votes of him has also shortened this season as the output of many of the club’s senior players has visibly decreased, either through form, injury or both. Michael Rischitelli, Jared Brennan, Nathan Bock and Jarrod Harbrow all missed plenty of football, leaving Harley Bennell as the only player capable of regularly pinching votes off Ablett.
Of course, umpires will always be hesitant to award any votes to a player from a team that’s been flogged, so you have to be careful.
But just run through Ablett’s performances week by week. A conservative estimate has him finishing with 25 votes, which of course would be below what you’d expect given past results and the circumstances surrounding Gold Coast’s season.
Swan’s flying under the radar. Watson’s claim to Charlie has been well documented. However, at the end of the day, it’s just too hard to go past Ablett.
As crazy as it sounds, he just might do it.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.